I’ve always had a soft spot for the Fender Pawn shop series. They are all particularly nice looking guitars with some interesting combinations of pickups, colour schemes, body shapes and so on. In particular I like the way that they’ve torn up the rule book on what things a guitar needs to have. For example, the super sonic has two volume controls, one for each pickup and no tone control. Similarly the 72 has a master volume and a continuous blend control. The pawn shop 51 has a volume control and pickup selector and that’s it. Well it’s not quite it – the volume control can also be used as a coil tap. This was often cited as a complaint in reviews, yet the recent success of the cabronita guitar which has effectively the same control layout has brought me back to the 51. By not having a tone control you are unable to tame particularly harsh highs. However because the bridge pickup in the 51 is a humbucker, this is a lot less of an issue compared to a telecaster or strat. Additionally you allow more of the pickup’s natural voice to come through by taking the tone control out of the circuit. The Fender esquire actually had this as a pickup position to give maximum bite to the tone.
I recently bit the bullet and picked up a 51 because they seem to be rather undervalued at the moment. Brand new you can easily pick one up for less than £400 (and even less than £350 if you shop around) which is around the same price as a new chinese fender modern player. The first generation of pawn shop guitars were made to a very high quality in Japan (I believe the newer models are made in mexico) so essentially you can get one of the most well made Fender guitars of the last few years for the same price as one of the worst. The guitar features a texas special in the neck and an enforcer in the bridge which covers a lot of tonal ground, from Stevie Ray Vaughn to heavy metal. The neck is the real star though, a beautifully made c-shape telecaster neck with nicely rolled fingerboard edges.
So far I’ve been playing it whenever I can. It offers a very different playing experience to my strat despite the familiar body shape and sounds just great. I will post up a more complete review with samples soon but for now, back to the pawn shop!
Do you have one of the pawn shop series guitars? Or perhaps a one-off you’ve made yourself with some unusual features?